Programming is a highly useful skill for your children to learn, regardless of the career path they pursue in the future. Teaching your children how to code helps them develop important problem-solving skills, encourages creativity, and builds communication skills. It that isn’t enough to get you excited, it can be a great opportunity to bond and have some fun. Here we provide our thoughts on why it’s important to teach kids how to code. Then, we provide some helpful tools for kids of all ages.
The Importance of Teaching Your Children How to Code
It’s tough to pinpoint one reason why children should learn how to code. So rather than try and pick just one, we’ve pulled together a few reasons why coding should be on your list of things to do with your kids.
Develop Problem Solving Skills
Learning the basics of coding, along with understanding how computers work, helps children to grasp how things work. They also develop an appreciation for all the effort that goes into the tech we use every day. Coding also helps children understand how software developers use math in order to solve problems. Logic and creativity go hand in hand for programmers.
Learning how to code at a young age will help children master overcoming adversity. How many times have you written code in 30 minutes then needed an hour or more to find that one, small error? Problem solving skills combined with patience will be very useful later in your child’s life.
Learn How to Think
Coding teaching us how to think. When creating a program it is much more than staring at a screen cranking out lines of code. A different thought process is required. Creating a quality program requires the programmer to identify a large issue, break it down into smaller parts and then solve the problem in an effective manner.
Preparing Them for the Future
It’s been said that software is eating the world. When you look at the number of businesses that hire developers these days that statement makes a lot of sense. Regardless of the career path your child pursues, if they have coding skills they will have a leg up on the non-coding competition.
Not only can a career as a developer be rewarding, it is also high-paying. With a shortage of developers, especially for emerging technology such as AI, those who are proficient in the right languages will be able to demand a rather cushy salary.
We’ve touched on just a few points why you teaching your children how to code is a good idea (don’t forget about cyber security!). We could write a short novel if we wanted to list all the reasons. Suffice it to say that it is an important skill for a variety of reasons. Now, let’s get into the fun part! Educational resources to develop your children’s coding skills.
Entry Level Programming Games
The youngest children respond best to programming resources that focus more on graphics than the actual code itself. It’s true that many of these educational apps come with an 8+ age rating. However, if your child is able to read and understand cause and effect then the following games should be suitable as an introduction to coding.
Daisy the Dinosaur is a free game found on Apple’s App Store. Children will manipulate a dinosaur, Daisy, through various challenges that introduce loops, events, and other basics of programming. At the first glance you will notice this is a very basic app. That’s why it is in our entry level section. Daisy presents a simple, fun, and non-threatening introduction to programming for young kids. The app has a free version so you can see if it’s a fit without having to pay up.
A free, web-based resource from MIT is Scratch. With activities for parents, educators, and curious kids Scratch was designed for kids 8-16.
Scratch is an excellent tool to teach kids about developing animations, creating interactive stories and games all using drag-and-drop blocks. Navigation is very user-friendly and designed to keep kids engaged. You can even design custom costumes for your characters!
Not only can you design your own characters, but Scratch provides nearly limitless methods to make the character do what you like.
Once you and your child have developed your masterpiece you can save the file and share it with friends. Scratch doesn’t allow you to create an app ready for the Play Store or App Store, but it still provides a great experience and learning opportunity.
Once you’ve had a chance to play around with Scratch you can move on to Stencyl.
With Stencyl, you can use a platform that is similar in feel to Scratch, but allows you to publish games. You can publish to Android, iOS, HTML5, Windows, and Mac. Note that it’s free to publish to the Web, but paid plans ranging from $99/yr – $199/yr are required to publish to desktop and mobile.
Stencyl is fun because it provides a drag & drop option for new users. They also enable more advanced users to create and share custom blocks through code and imported libraries. For the advanced dad or kid, building and sharing custom blocks could be a rewarding challenge.
Advanced Programming Games
Once you’ve mastered the basics it’s time to step up to more advanced games.
For those who want to create a serious Android app, check out App Inventor from MIT. With over 8 million registered users and 35 million apps built, App Inventor provides tutorials to help add your custom developed app to that growing list!
At first glance App Inventor will remind you of Scratch and Stencyl. However, the differences quickly become obvious. App Inventor is packed with all the methods, functions, and other coding elements that are needed to build an actual Android app.
While App Inventor is packed with features, it isn’t the most user-friendly. Middle school and high school students would likely do best with this tool.
Alice provides an introduction to object-oriented programming languages, such as C++. It’s a free 3D programming tool that incorporates the use of building blocks to create games and animations. Kids can program 3D models, camera motions and scenes.
The drag & drop functionality is helpful and even a bit better than Scratch as it’s less cluttered. A great benefit is the ability to transition to a standard programming language from the visual building block interface. This is done by converting programs, called methods in Alice, into a Java IDE (think NetBeans).
Alice is recommended for students that are 10+ as the move to a more traditional coding sans blocks might be tough for younger learners.
Massively open online courses (MOOCs) have been around for a while, but they seem to be getting increasingly popular with people spending more time at home. Courses tend to offer more formal training in programming. From basics all the way to advanced levels, MOOCs can be a great way to supplement learning.
It would be tough to highlight every app and platform that would be useful in teaching your children how to code. The big takeaway here is that resources are available and can be used for either a very low cost or for free. For dads who want to learn to code with their kids some of the above platforms and resources can prove fun for all ages and skill levels.